UNDER PRESSURE: THE EFFECT OF ENVIRONMENTAL STRESS ON COGNITION AND BEHAVIOR IN SHELTER DOGS
AuthorTees, Lily Tatum
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PublisherThe University of Arizona.
RightsCopyright © is held by the author. Digital access to this material is made possible by the University Libraries, University of Arizona. Further transmission, reproduction or presentation (such as public display or performance) of protected items is prohibited except with permission of the author.
AbstractAs an obligate social species, dogs experience stress in the animal shelter due to a significant lack of human interaction. Chronic stress can lead to dysregulation of the HPA axis which affects physiological measures of stress, so behavior may be a more accurate indicator of chronic stress among dogs in the shelter. Chronic stress also impacts cognition, so evaluating the performance of shelter dogs with a spatial memory task may give insight to stress level. This study sought to determine if stress behaviors in shelter dogs decrease as a result of participation in a cognitive task, and if poor performance on a cognitive task correlates with more stress behaviors. Behavioral observations were conducted for 36 adoptable dogs at the Humane Society of Southern Arizona and 20 dogs were subjected to a cognitive test on the second day of behavioral observations. Stress behaviors were coded using an ethogram and grouped into two categories using principal component analysis: active stress and vocal stress. The proportion of choices correct were recorded for the cognitive task and analyzed with reference to each dog’s principal component stress score. There was a weak negative relationship between cognitive test score and both active and vocal stress score, which suggests that poor cognitive performance may be indicative of dogs experiencing greater stress. However, there was not a significant difference between active and vocal stress scores among the control and experimental groups, which may be due to the nature of the cognitive task being brief with little increase in human interaction compared to the control condition.
Degree ProgramVeterinary Science